Jelly Bean Math

Let’s have a fun math class today with our young child. Be prepared by purchasing a bag of jelly beans.

Parent to child:

“Let’s take a bag of jelly beans and put them on the table.”

“Let’s sort them by color.” You might work with the child or let him or her do this particular task on their own.

Continue with the following instructions.

“Now let’s compare the groups (sets). Which group has the most jelly beans? Which group has less jelly beans?

Which group has more — the yellow group or the red group? Which group has less — the red group or the green group?”

Put all the jelly beans back together in one group on the table. Give the child 2 jelly beans.

“How many jelly beans do you have?” Give the child 1 more jelly bean. “How many jelly beans do you have now?”

Continue the conversation by giving jelly beans and having the child give you jelly beans. At times, ask the child which of you have more jelly beans or less jelly beans.

“Separate (divide) the jelly beans into 2 equal groups.” Let the child do this on his or her own. Take note of how the child does this. Some children may separate by putting 1 in each of 2 groups one at a time. Or the child may place several beans in one pile; then several in another pile. Or they may line them up side by side in a line. This observation will help you to see how the child is processing this instruction. If they get the right answer, do not attempt to correct them or show them another way at this time. They will learn various ways as they continue to work with manipulatives.

In the simple exercises above, children are recognizing, classifying, categorizing, arranging, separating, adding, dividing, sorting, identifying, more than, less than, associating, etc.

There are so many mathematical skills than can be caught with manipulatives that are as simple and inexpensive as a bag of jelly beans. So think outside the box. Every math concept or principle does not have to be taught with pencil and paper. Sometimes it helps to just have a little fun and learn at the same time.

Enjoy your jelly beans.

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